Hezbollah Brigades threatens retaliation after U.S. airstrikes

The reported aftermath of a U.S. airstrike on a Hezbollah Brigades base in the Iraqi city of Al Qaim.

Following deadly U.S. airstrikes on five locations in Iraq and Syria belonging to the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah (commonly referred to as the Hezbollah Brigades, or KH), the Shia jihadist militia has threatened more attacks on U.S. troops in the region.

On its website, KH said in response to the strikes that “we in the Hezbollah Brigades call on all popular and national military and security forces to prepare for a new chapter in the glorious pages of expelling the American enemy from our holy land.”

The pro-Lebanese Hezbollah outlet Al Mayadeen quoted KH’s military commander, Abu Ahmad al Basri, as saying that “awaiting orders, our forces are ready to destroy the bases of the American occupiers and crush their rotten heads.”

Additionally, the leader of the Hezbollah Brigades and the overall deputy leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, briefly stated in a press conference today that “the response to the Americans will be harsh.”

The Hezbollah Brigades is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that has been one of Iran’s main proxies in Iraq since its formation during the Iraq War. Its aforementioned leader, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, has been involved with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps since the early 1980s.

Meanwhile, other Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq have joined in KH’s calls to directly combat US troops.

Asa’ib Ahl al Haq (AAH), led by U.S.-designated terrorist Qais al Khazali, motioned that it was ready to join KH in further targeting U.S. personnel.

“We believe that American soldiers have become a burden to the Iraqi state and have become a source of threats and violence against our armed forces,” the group said on its website.

It continues by saying that “we call on all national forces to unite in one rank in the front of this enemy.” AAH does, however, warn these forces of “further threatening the security and stability of our beloved Iraq.”

Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada condemned the U.S. strikes, adding that they “call for a response that will comfort the heart and take revenge for the loss of pure blood.”

And while not directly calling for retaliation, the longstanding Iranian proxy, the Badr Organization, also condemned the airstrikes.

The U.S. bombing run, which was launched on five targets in the Syria-Iraq border region, came after one U.S. contractor was killed and several U.S. troops were wounded by a rocket barrage on their base in the Kirkuk area of Iraq on Friday.

The targets comprised of KH storage facilities and command and control locations in both Iraq and Syria, according to CNN and the Department of Defense. The Pentagon added that three locations were in Iraq, while two were in Syria.

On its website, the Iraqi PMU confirmed that 25 fighters were indeed killed and a further 51 were wounded in the bombing campaign. It added that its 45th and 46th Brigades were targeted, which correlate to units belonging to the Hezbollah Brigades.

Other outlets have reported that a top KH commander, Abu Ali al Khazali, was also killed by the airstrikes.

While they did not result in a U.S. retaliation at the time, several U.S. bases in Iraq were also targeted by mortars and rockets over the summer. While no group ever took responsibility, it is widely viewed that Iranian-backed militias were the culprits.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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